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Oracle pushes for common Web services choreography

One of Oracle's top Web services gurus says that getting a choreography standard in place will be critical to the evolution of Web services. Oracle's director of Web services standards believes a common choreography will be key for advanced development like linking supply chains, though the development of security standards is just as crucial.

Oracle Corp. has made a big splash in the Web services pond as of late, leading an effort to encourage the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to develop a common standard for Web services choreography. spoke with Jeff Mischkinsky, director of Web services standards for Oracle, about how a choreography standard is important and why his company is working to make that happen. What's your assessment of Web services standards today?
Mischkinsky: I think that the SOAP and WSDL -- the basic infrastructure ones -- are development prerequisites, and they're pretty much under control at this point; the industry is putting the finishing touches on them. We see security as being key. Right now you can do [security], but you have to do a lot of stuff yourself: you have to have private agreements, tokes and encryption and so forth. So that's very critical in the short term, and then longer term is the choreography issue. Just last month, Oracle helped convince the World Wide Web Consortium to consider developing a standard choreography language for Web services. Why is a choreography standard important, and why did Oracle take the initiative?
Mischkinsky: Choreography is important because if you look at what's happening in the Web services space, initial specs are dealing with low-level protocols and how you describe a Web service. The real use for Web services that I think we'll see is with people who want to do business across the Internet, which involves being able to hook together varied business processes, like supply chains and so forth. Moving up the stack is issues like describing and building processes, and getting them to interact, and that's what choreography covers. Right now, how good are the chances that the W3C will officially take on the choreography issue, and how long would it take to get a spec finalized?
Mischkinsky: I'm hopeful that the chances are good that eventually the activity will be chartered at the W3C. Assuming it gets chartered, it'll take maybe a year [to be finalized]. I think it wouldn't take very long for the group to converge on a general outline for what it's going to do. Crossing the last few t's and dotting the i's can take a while, but eventually it'll get a final approval. What's Oracle's position on royalties? Should all Web services standards be royalty-free?
Mischkinsky: We think that people need to know ahead of time exactly what the [intellectual property] rules for a standard are going to be. It's our position that basic construction standards be widely available to the community. One of the things that we like about the W3C's Web services activity is that by default it is royalty-free. If a company would like to propose a contribution that they are intending on licensing, they are required to disclose that early in the process, so the community can decide if it's worthwhile. There are cases when it may be, and there are cases when it may not. So would Oracle support royalties as long as they're known from the outset?
Mischkinsky: That's correct. If the community makes an informed decision [to support a royalty-based standard], then that's exactly the right thing to have happen. There are so many industry groups and vendors that want to have a say in Web services standards. Do you think there is too much input around the industry to come to consensus at this point?
Mischkinsky: No, I don't think so. I think that you can see that demonstrated in the SOAP and WSDL standards, and the WS-I is making good progress. There are a lot of people interested, and there are lots of good ideas floating around. People understand there's a certain amount of urgency, and we're all better off negotiating in a fair and open way and making some decisions. In your opinion, what's the best-case scenario for Web services if, over the next two years or so, the industry is able to come together on standards, and what is the worst-case scenario if that doesn't happen?
Mischkinsky: Best case, I think the impact could be huge. Right now, people are building applications with either a lot of bilateral negotiations or a lot of work to figure out which of multiple different formats are going to be used. A lot of it is done with people and fax machines. The benefits are huge in coming together in common ways to describe processes and use common protocols.

Worst case, we'll be where we are today. It's not that you can't do a lot of this stuff today, but it takes a lot of resources. In terms of time to market, it's difficult and slow. Why is Oracle getting involved in Web services standards?
Mischkinsky: It's important to Oracle because that's the bread and butter of what Oracle customers are doing. We want to help them reduce costs by having more efficient, cheaper solutions, and deploy them quickly. I think one of the benefits we have is we're relatively neutral. We're trying to figure out the best thing to do for our customers. We want to see the technology and standards develop quickly so that we can integrate them into our product sets.


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